Disney returns to short format

The New York Times reports it has been nearly 50 years since The Walt Disney Studios produced a short length animation but now they’re getting back in the biz. Despite the inaccuracy of that statement (Runaway Brain, Fantasia 2000 anyone?), it’s good news that they’re letting feature animators work on the short films again.

“They allow you to develop new talent,” Mr. Williams said in an
interview at the Disney studios. “Shorts are your farm team, where the
new directors and art directors are going to come from. Instead of
taking a chance on an $80 million feature with a first-time director,
art director or head of story, you can spend a fraction of that on a
short and see what they can do.”

Those shorts were crucial to keeping the skill set of the animator fresh and to introduce new skills and techniques to audiences before working them into the feature film format. This is something Pixar has been known for, and it’s one of the key things John Lasseter and Ed Catmul wanted to introduce after the merger.

This is one of the things that struck me as odd in the mid-90s, early 00s version of Disney Studios. They farmed their short subjects out to TV animation units and closed their Florida and Paris Feature Animation studios. Sure it costs more to have feature animators doing short subjects, but that’s where future talent comes from. Without it the studio becomes stagnant. (Thanks Natalie!)